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Fresno Officially Celebrates Indigenous Peoples' Day for 1st Time
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By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 3 years ago on
October 11, 2021

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With the sound of the flags flapping in the wind, nearly 100 gathered at Fresno City Hall to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day. It is believed to be the first official city celebration ever.

“People have certain stereotypes about Native American people, indigenous people of this land. So we want to change that narrative, change those stereotypes, break down those stereotypes, and we want to be able to share our culture so people can see that we’re still here. We’re still alive.” — James Martin, a member of the Choctaw Nation

“We want to see it as a celebration of indigenous people, indigenous culture and share that culture with everybody,” said James Martin, a Fresno artist and member of the Choctaw Nation.

For Martin, he wanted to change the narrative of how indigenous people are viewed.

“People have certain stereotypes about Native American people, indigenous people of this land. So we want to change that narrative, change those stereotypes, break down those stereotypes, and we want to be able to share our culture so people can see that we’re still here. We’re still alive,” Martin said.

Bob Sandoval, of the Tarasco tribe, burns incense as part of a religious sanctification before celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day at Fresno City Hall. (GV Wire/David Taub)

Sponsored By City Council

The event was sponsored by Fresno city councilmembers Nelson Esparza, Esmeralda Soria, and Tyler Maxwell. They were present along with Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer.

“The celebration is very much community-led,” Esparza said. “This is the first time we’ve ever done this, to the best of my knowledge.”

Biden Issues First Presidential Proclamation

President Joe Biden on Friday issued the first-ever presidential proclamation of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, lending the most significant boost yet to efforts to refocus the federal holiday celebrating Christopher Columbus toward an appreciation of Native peoples.

While Native Americans have campaigned for years for local and national days in recognition of the country’s indigenous peoples, Biden’s announcement appeared to catch many by surprise.

“This was completely unexpected. Even though we’ve been talking about it and wanting it for so long,” said Hillary Kempenich, an artist and member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. In 2019, she and other tribal members successfully campaigned for her town of Grand Forks, North Dakota, to replace Columbus Day with a day recognizing Native peoples.

You can read Biden’s proclamation at this link.

Trump Championed Columbus Day

Biden’s acknowledgment of the suffering of Native Americans marked a break from President Donald Trump’s ardent defense of “intrepid heroes” like Columbus in his 2020 proclamation of the holiday.

“Sadly, in recent years, radical activists have sought to undermine Christopher Columbus’ legacy,” Trump said at the time. “These extremists seek to replace discussion of his vast contributions with talk of failings, his discoveries with atrocities, and his achievements with transgressions.”

(Associated Press contributed to this article.)

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David Taub,
Senior Reporter
Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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